The United States and Canada are good neighbors that share many aspects of life and commerce, but only one national treasure, Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls is the second largest waterfall on the planet, and it is a true sensory delight with visual impact, exciting sounds, and the sweet smell and embrace of the ever-present mist.
Each year 12 million tourists travel thousands of miles from all corners of the earth to look at, and be amazed as 750,000 gallons of water per second drops 170 feet from the upper Niagara River to the rock-strewn canyon below.
Did you know that almost 20 percent of all the fresh water in the world lies in the four ‘upper’ Great Lakes of Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior? Most of the outflow from those upper lakes empties into the Niagara River, and eventually rolls over the falls and into Lake Ontario.
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There are two towns and three falls named “Niagara Falls”
People who have not previously visited the region are often surprised to learn that there are two towns in different countries, with the name “Niagara Falls.” The US town is in New York; -the other is in Ontario, Canada. The Niagara River separates the towns and countries, and the Rainbow Bridge spans the river, and joins them.
Three cascading water formations make up Niagara Falls. The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls are both on the American side of the river and are separated by a tiny island. One third of the Horseshoe Falls is on the American side, and two-thirds is in Canada.
See it dry –or- see it wet
Niagara Falls is the best water watching experience in North America, and you can do it one of two ways – dry or wet. The dry experience is available from either Canada or the United States. Both countries have verdant park systems next to the falls.
The ‘wet’ methods interact with the grandeur of the falls. There is the “Cave of the Winds” on Goat Island on the American side, and “Journey Behind the Falls,” at Table Rock on the Canadian side. Both of these adventures have elevators that drop you down 175 feet to the base of the falls. Each requires dressing in raincoats and boots because you get very wet as tons of crashing water sprays up from the rocks before you.
The Maid of the Mist boat tour is another ‘wet’ adventure available in both parks. Starting in April (depending on river ice) and into October, powerful diesel engines propel boatloads of thrill seeking tourists past the American Falls and to within vibrating distance of the majestic Horseshoe Falls.
For several exciting minutes as the Maid of the Mist approaches the Horseshoe Falls, it labors to stay in place against the rushing current and winds caused by the mighty cataract. Passengers stand steadfast on the deck in shiny blue raincoats, soaked to the bone by waves of pounding mist, and mesmerized by the magnificent hurricane that rages directly in front of them — and just yards off the boat’s bow.
The best month to visit
Most of the millions of annual tourists that visit Niagara Falls do so between the months of June and September. However, if you are like us, you appreciate quick access to the best sites. All too often, that is not possible at Niagara Falls during the summer months.
In our opinion, October is the best time for a trip to the Falls. Imagine finding a parking space and walking directly to the best location for an uncrowded photograph. It is possible in October.
Another good reason for considering October for your holiday is that the surrounding trees will be dressed up in a dazzling array of autumn colors.
One final reason is that October is the month when many of the Bed and Breakfasts and local hotels drop their room rates as much as 40 percent.
October daytime temperatures are splendid for walking, and the nights are pleasantly cool. Bring a warm sweater to enjoy the evening view of the magnificent falls.
If you go
Niagara Falls is easy to reach by air. It is conveniently situated 25 miles from New York’s Buffalo International Airport, and 75 miles from the Toronto International Airport. Many major airlines serve Toronto and Buffalo from San Francisco, and there are excellent bus, shuttle, limousine, and rental car services throughout the area.
Niagara Falls on a Dime
This isn't penny pinching, its saving enough where you need to so you can have a wonderful, enjoyable vacation in the Canadian City of Love, Niagara Falls.
Whether it is visiting off-season in the wintertime, or in the peak of the summer, in Niagara Falls Ontario, there is always a deal to be found; you just have to look for it. If you do a little bit of research before heading out on the road, you will find hotels, attractions, and restaurants that cater right to your needs.
Hotels can be the hardest to find a deal on. The lowest prices are always in the off-season, but if you do not want to bare the Canadian winter (which, in Niagara Falls can be very unpredictable) try to go mid-week. Weekends always have higher prices because the hotel's occupancy, but if you don't care about your room or bed type, you can find something easily.
During the week, one can find Falls view rooms for as low as $119.95. If you are looking to stay in the city where most of the activities are, there are hotels on Clifton Hill (the main attraction strip) that can go for as low as $69.95. Shop around and compare hotels; be advised when using online companies to find your hotel, as they actually charge an average of ten to fifteen percent more per hotel room to cover their costs.
There is much to see and do in Niagara Falls, and though for some activities you may need a vehicle, or rely on public transportation, the majority of the attractions are within walking distance from the city's most popular strip, called Clifton Hill. It runs between Victoria Avenue and Falls Avenue, and hosts a few hotels, including a Hampton Inn and Comfort Inn, as well as many restaurants, haunted houses and the Great Canadian Midway, where one can play games and win carnival prizes.
There is also the Sky Wheel, which is a large Ferris wheel that runs all year around, offering some of the best views of the Falls. On Fall Avenue, there is a Hard Rock Café, a Canadian Mountie Trading Post (offering souvenirs like tee shirts, shot glasses, and even cute stuffed animals like beavers dressed up like Mounties) and even a 50's style Coca-Cola shop, where one can buy Cola floats and lots of old and new Coke merchandise for the collectors.
Though it is good to save some money for things you'd really like to do, make sure you put a little extra aside for the Niagara Falls excursions like Maid of the Mist, or for the more adventurous, the Niagara Jet Boat tours. For the Maid of the Mist, each adult ticket is CDN$14.50, and for a child it is CDN$8.90.
The Maid of the Mist boat will take you close up in the basin of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, to show everyone just how massive it really is, the roar of the water itself is just breathtaking.
For the thrill seekers, there is the Niagara Whirlpool Jet Boat tours, that drive up the Niagara gorge towards rapids, passing the American and Canadian power plants, an eerie feeling as you go past them. This ride is CDN$56.00 for an adult, and CDN$47.00 for a child.
There is the option of the uncovered jet boat (not an inch of you will stay dry on this ride! Life jackets and water shoes are given by the company) or the covered boat, where you get all of the thrill, and none of the chill. Please keep in mind that these are activities that will not be open during the winter months.
Chain-restaurants make up much of Niagara Falls, and while it is good to see familiar names (these names include Tony Roma's, TGI Fridays, The Keg and Outback Steakhouse), it is usually much cheaper to give a chance to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant run by locals to get a great meal at an even better price.
Why pay USD$50.00 for two hamburger meals at TGI Fridays, when you can discover the great dinner buffets that the Fallsview Casino offers, or an oversized plate of your favourite pasta from Mama Mia's?
Lundy's Lane is a great place to grab something to eat that isn't too out of the way from the main hotel strip, and isn't saturated with chain-restaurants. Some personal favourites have to be Johnny Rockets, for sandwiches and shakes, and especially The Flying Saucer.
Both restaurants are reasonably priced and have a very wide selection of things to choose from, including those with very large appetites, and both are very popular family restaurants. The Flying Saucer is well known for being for once being a place where you could drive in, and the waitress would roller skate to your car.
Unfortunately, the restaurant no longer does this, but it is known for its early bird breakfast special of only 99 cents for two extra large eggs, toast, and hashbrowns.
Where to Shop for Antiques in Niagara on the Lake
A guide to the Antique Belt in Niagara Falls, Canada.
After a couple hundred years of being a cultural hotspot, Niagara on the Lake is now totally overstocked with heritage items, and has cut prices to liquidate history. Use this guide to find the best bargains in the Niagara Antique Belt.
The Shaw Festival is a world class performing arts company that brings the best plays of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries to life on three stages. This entertainment spectacle nicely compliments every antique collector's annual pilgrimage to Virgil and Jordan and the shops along Stone Rd in the old town of Niagara on the Lake.
Shopping for Antiques?
Niagara on the Lake, Virgil and Jordan are terrific places to shop for antique furniture, vintage kitchenware, stain glass windows and lamps. Although military collectibles are surprisingly scarce, there exists an extraordinary amount of sheet music, lace, dolls and of course doll houses, vintage bar supplies and nostalgia pieces from the 1920s and 30s. The area is also rich in antique toys, primitive iron tools, and collectible fruit sealer jars.
Niagara Falls History
Etienne Brûlé was the first European to see Niagara Falls in 1633. The first eyewitness account of the falls in written text was by Father Louis Hennepin in 1683 wherein he described it as, “the most beautiful and altogether the most terrifying waterfall in the universe”.
The first European settlers were primarily British Loyalists fleeing America in 1778. At the end of the American Revolution, these Loyalists were given land grants, and the town of Niagara was laid out on the west bank of the Niagara River. As the first farms were being cut from the wilderness, the first orchards were planted and they included apple trees from Quebec and the Maritimes, and red cherries from the east coast of the United States. The whole settlement prospered under the leadership of John Butler, who had led a regiment of rangers during the revolution.
Handcrafted Wood Furniture
Known for good handcrafted wood furniture, the entire Niagara region is rich with handmade primitives that sometimes incorporate fruitwoods. Inside Europa-Antiques, shoppers will no doubt admire handmade wooden chests, side tables and wardrobes, pine dressers and bookshelf units all being sold for less than $350. The proprietors of this business, located at 1523 Niagara Stone Road, inside a
‘dear old red brick church', have an interesting attitude toward recycling furniture as part of their contribution to reducing climate change – Josh points to the green Reduce, Reuse, Recycle triangle on his hemp shopping bags. This business is here to sell good furniture cheap, and keep the inventory moving by offering very low prices. And BEST OF ALL, if you buy over four hundred dollars worth of furniture they will deliver it for free as far away as Toronto!
Pottery, Porcelain, and Fine China
Lakeshore Antiques and Treasures is located at 855 Lakeshore Road in the center of Niagara on the Lake. This is a well stocked 7000 square foot building wherein 15 separate merchants offer up their wares. Overall there are good prices here on painted pine furniture and English china. The shop is filled with tables and chairs and early Canadian pottery, porcelain, and English fine china and American kitchenware from the 1940s and 50s. Antique chandeliers hang from the rafters over many merchant holdings.
Bakelite is a Good Buy in Niagara
The area is becoming known for unusual bakelite items like radios and picnic vessels, tableware and all manner of period Art Deco objects. These gorgeous early wood plastic luxury items were imported by retailers to accommodate Niagara Falls tourists in the booming1950's. Today vintage bakelite is very sheik, and these antiques are cool to collect and relatively inexpensive here because of their availability.
Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian Antiques
Creighton House Antiques is a family business located on the main street of Jordan since 1982, but Joe and Pauline Creighton have been in the area, selling antiques for thirty years. Their large shop is located in the carriage house next to their 1850s Georgian home. They have lots of Canadiana, Victorian, and Edwardian furniture pieces, turn-of-the-century oak wardrobes, and quality mahogany and walnut furniture of the 1920s. The antiques are in “as found condition”, and range from fair to good condition. Joe does the buying and prides himself of the selection – there's something for everyone here.
Jordan Antiques is found at 3836 Main Street in the village of Jordan and boasts 6000 square feet of shopping; there are a lot of antiques here and it's not crowded. The prices are good on pine furniture, fine china and figurines. There's an abundance of Art Deco ashtrays, cranberry coloured carnival glass, vintage Christmas decorations, antique fishing lures, wooden tackle boxes, and handmade quilts. This is the perfect place to outfit a cottage with classic furnishings.
The Shaw Festival plays punctuate the cerebral excitement of this historic destination. Look around this old town and you can see, touch and breathe in the history; the scenery includes thundering black powder cannons in the walls of Fort George, and quaint horse and buggy tours that parade under canopied streets. As most of the buildings in town have historic plaques chronicling their existence, it's quite enlightening to just saunter around town for an afternoon.
Niagara Falls: What You Don't Want to Miss
A few places that you'll definitely want stop by on your getaway.
Whether going on your honeymoon or just looking for a weekend getaway, Niagara Falls in Ontario Canada is a great vacation spot. From the falls to the casinos, there’s a lot to do in only a few days. Here are some of the more popular attractions you won’t want to miss out on.
- Casino Niagara, it’s the first hotel you will see coming over the border. It’s attached to “The Brock” hotel by an enclosed bridge allowing occupants easy access to the casino, especially in those cold winter months. And don’t forget the enormous indoor water park on the top level of The Brock hotel. This casino offers everything from sports betting to table games to the always popular slot machines. And you don’t need a small fortune to play as there are plenty of penny slots available.
- Clifton Hill, it’s the busiest place by the falls. If you’re lucky enough to be staying in one of the hill’s hotels, you’ll have quick access to several tourist shops, museums, and attractions such as mini golf and arcades. It also holds the largest Ferris wheel in Canada. It’s perfect for families or a great place to take a break from the casino.
- When you make your way down to the other side of the falls, you’ll find the newest casino, Fallsview. It’s a casino and five star hotel all in one. With luxurious accommodations, and a casino a few floors down, you could have fun for days. And like Casino Niagara, there are plenty of penny and nickel slots for those just looking to have some fun, and table games for the more serious gambler.
- The majestic Niagara Falls, whether seeing it on the Canadian or American side, it’s hard to beat the view of this amazing waterfall. In the summer, you can brave the choppy waters and head into the falls on “The Maid of the Mist”, an amazing boat ride that takes you to the very edge of the falls. You can’t leave without seeing one of the wonders of the world.
These are just a few places that you can go to make sure you have a great trip. There are so many more places, it’s impossible to list them all. You can venture out and discover new things on your own and you’re guaranteed to go home with some great memories, and an extraordinary experience.